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Summer Learning Institute helps students master the last 'r'

Martha Young

The University of Toronto at Scarborough is gearing up for its third summer of math boot camp to train students in the skills they may require for their programs of study.

The Summer Learning Institute for mathematics preparedness is a tuition-free program aimed at helping students succeed in their first year of university. Begun as a smaller pilot project in 2004, it was expanded in 2005, says Martha Young, assistant director and co-ordinator of academic learning initiatives and learning services at Scarborough. This summer, SLI will expand its focus to include students who had difficulty with their first year of university coursework.

Mathematics preparedness is only one of three non-credit SLI courses. The two other courses are English language development and research, writing and presenting. The former is for newly admitted UTSC students who are non-native speakers of English, while the latter is a two-day intensive course designed to teach students how to navigate UTSC library computer resources such as journal indices and peer-reviewed articles and demonstrate critical reading, thinking, writing and presentation skills.


The math course is the most intensive of the three, running three days a week for five weeks. It comprises 30 hours of lectures and 23 hours of tutorial and covers algebra, functions and graphs, exponents and logarithms, trigonometry, continuity, derivatives and differentiation. Students write assignments, two mid-term tests and a final exam; they receive an oral assessment of their performance and a final grade using the university grade scale.

“The response was wonderful and students really appreciated the course,” Young says. “In fact, we continued to see students who were enrolled throughout their first year … and they told us how valuable it had been.”

As well as providing students with proficiency in first-year mathematics material, “we wanted students to focus on understanding, inquiry and problem-solving strategies rather than memorization or mechanical use of concepts,” Young says. The course also aims to make students aware of alternate means of learning, she adds, such as group study and symbolic computation packages.

Ninety students took the mathematics preparedness course in 2005, up from 60 in 2004. All had the necessary background for their programs of study, she notes -- including Grade 12 advanced functions and introductory calculus or advanced-level calculus -- but when tested, they were considered likely candidates to benefit from additional math preparation.

Given the effectiveness of the course, Young says, “We plan to continue it.”




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